For years now platforms that were originally developed to be B2C ecommerce solutions have been trying to offer B2B ecommerce on the side and, for years, it’s not quite worked out.
Whilst clearly related (both ultimately sell ‘things’ online) there are major differences between B2C and B2B ecommerce. When a platform has been designed to address one or other of B2C or B2B it is difficult to adapt the core platform for the alternative.
Whilst on the face of it there are plenty of B2B platforms available there are actually fairly few designed to specifically address the unique set of circumstances faced by those trading digitally in the B2B world.
The outcome for businesses can be a positive experience initially, as they get set up to sell online, followed by an increasingly challenging process of trying to adopt a B2C ecommerce framework for a B2B environment.
Consider the following and how the platforms you are considering address each one.
The purchasing experience
Fundamentally buyers in the B2C and B2B worlds are achieving different goals, accessing your ecommerce at different times, researching different aspects and ordering in a different way.
They are both ‘buying something online’, but the process and purchasing experience is completely different.
B2C buyers may be purchasing out of necessity or making an emotional decision on a luxury product. B2B buyers purchasing from wholesalers are buying ultimately with a requirement to make revenue when they sell the item on.
Loyal B2B customers may well simply have a requirement to purchase the same thing over and over again, at the best price, in the shortest amount of time. Even the most regimented B2C buyer is unlikely to purchase the exact same weekly shop week in and week out.
When assessing solutions look for functionality which is explicitly geared towards the active working practices of B2B buyers, rather than public consumers.
B2B buyers will be used to ecommerce in their daily lives as B2C consumers, but they may not be used to the same digital experience in their working lives.
For those who are still used to placing telephone orders with familiar named individuals at trusted suppliers, there is a level of activation required when it comes to ecommerce.
It’s rare to see a consideration of this activation within B2C ecommerce. Most B2c ecommerce assumes a level of comfort with online ordering. The best B2B solutions assume some aspect of transition may need to take place.
Scale and frequency
Total order values, the number of SKUs on each order and the frequency of those orders is likely to be very different in the B2B and B2C environments.
If you place an online order with your local supermarket for your family shop you may well get a graphical summary of your order at the end of the order process. It’s probably a visual representation of your basket, which perhaps contains up to 100 items,
But let’s say you are ordering 1,000 items, or more, with each item being ordered in large quantities.
Would the same display work for you as an order summary?
This is just one issue created by the difference in scale and frequency of order. Platforms that are B2C by nature tend not to consider the impacts created by orders of greater magnitude.
Crucially B2C platforms look at purchasers as named individuals, whilst B2B platforms may need to look at multiple individuals purchasing on behalf of one entity. This can fundamentally shift the point of view of reporting and again shows how relatively simple differences can have major impacts.
Both B2C and B2B ecommerce are likely to have BI requirements, particularly at enterprise level. The relationship between the data held in B2C systems with that in B2B though is likely to be very different, altering the desired outputs.
A B2C report looking at ‘related purchases’, for example, is likely to have some expected outputs when it comes to a consumer grocery shop. Burgers are always purchased with burger buns and so forth.
A B2B report would need to look much wider than this, because of the scale involved. If your customers were ordering burgers and burger buns from your wholesale ecommerce store, but were not purchasing hot dogs, charcoal or coleslaw then your BI should be able to show you this and allow you to make adjustments or carry out promotions.
Finally, language is important. Some aspects of a B2C store being customised for a B2B wholesaler may be able to be adjusted, but in many examples we see language that tells your customers something is ‘off’.
SKUs or inventory are instead ‘products’ in a ‘shop’. Instead of being asked to ‘order’ you are asked to ‘checkout’. Wholesale ‘coupons’ are instead ‘voucher codes’.
Something just doesn’t quite ‘feel’ right, which, in essence, is the feedback we get whenever a client comes to us having already purchased a B2C ecommerce solution for a B2B environment. If you do decide to go down this route then carefully assess the customisation you will require and if, ultimately, the solution can speak the language of your customers.
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